Letter to John X, Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch and all the East:

Your Beatitude,

Greetings in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

It is with great joy and thanksgiving to our Lord Jesus Christ that we read the news this morning about the release of the nuns of the St Thecla Convent in Maaloula who were kidnapped last year and held hostage for more than four months.

This is wonderful news at the beginning of the Blessed Lenten Season, and is the answer to fervent prayer offered by Christians around the world. This also bolsters our hope and encourages us that our two brothers, Archbishop Paul Yazigi and Archbishop Mar Yohanna Gregorios Ibrahim will also experience freedom after nearly a full year of captivity. We also continue to pray for the release of Fr Maher Mahfouz of the Greek Orthodox Church, Fr Michel Kayyal of the Armenian Catholic Church and the Jesuit priest, Father Paolo Dall'Oglio.

Our prayers will continue not only for the freedom of these brothers and all those being held captive today. We also pray without ceasing for the end of the armed conflict in Syria and for all people affected by the indiscriminate violence and humanitarian calamity in Syria. Innocent children, women and men are being killed, wounded, traumatized and driven from their homes in uncounted numbers. We hear their cries and we pray at this time for the Spirit of God to dwell in all leaders of the church so that they may have courage in these days of tribulation.

In the words of Mother Superior Pelagia Sayaf upon her release today, "God did not leave us." And indeed Christ remains with us suffering as the people of Syria continue to suffer under the heavy burden of this conflict.

Your Beatitude, we rejoice today with you and your Church and we eagerly look forward for the day when peace and justice will dwell in Syria.

I would like also to take this opportunity to wish Your Beatitude a quick recovery, and a Blessed Lenten Season.

In Christ,

Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit
WCC general secretary